PITTSBURGH (93.7 the Fan) – Special teams plays such a crucial role in the NHL post-season, so during the virtual meetings while the team was away from each other, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan posed a simple question to the power play units.
“What does the power play look like when we are at our best and firing on all cylinders?” Sullivan asked. “What might be absent in circumstances when we aren’t at our best?”
Sullivan put the coach’s hat on his players and said it was important for them to come up with answers among themselves.
“It gave them the opportunity to be the problem-solvers and maybe see it from a different perspective,” Sullivan said. “Now we have a chance to use that learning experience to get on the ice and continue to work out the process.”
“I think you can look at stuff, what we did to be successful,” said defenseman Justin Schultz. “It’s a fresh time now and it’s like a new year. Hopefully we get out to a quick start and the power play stays hot.”
There were stretches where the power play was good, but it ended up middle of the pack in the NHL during the regular season. Sullivan tried Jared McCann on the top unit with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and a rotation of Kris Letang and Schultz up top on Wednesday.
“They are two guys that have good offensive instincts,” Sullivan said of Letang and Schultz. “They are both capable of being number one quarterbacks on number one units. We practice both of them up there because a lot of times circumstances in the game itself is going to dictate which guys we use.”
Those circumstances could be just managing Letang’s minutes as Schultz was in that role when the team beat Nashville for the Stanley Cup a few years ago due to injury. The 30 year-old believes they know what to do.
“A lot of little things, injuries played a role in that,” Schultz said of their inconsistency during the regular season. “I know that when we are on, we are pretty hard to stop. We just have to outwork the penalty kill and if we do that we have enough skilled guys out there we will be fine.”
“The power play is always in constant evolution,” Sullivan said. “I know when these guys are at their best they can be very dangerous.”